Module 1: Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation
What are the strengths and weaknesses of any systems model of a political or social process? How might you overcome the weaknesses you have identified?
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Module 1: Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation
Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation
Before addressing the historical process of social policy, how it is designed, and analyzing its legitimation, implementation, and evaluation, we should define social policy. According to Haque (2021), social policy is a deliberate action on the part of individuals, collectivities, and governments undertaken to organize services, opportunities, and social action to affect the lifestyles of people and initiate a process to prevent, postpone, initiate and manage change (p. 2).
Gil (1992) states that social policy “goes far beyond conventional social welfare policies and programs […] social policies are viewed as the reduction of social inequalities through the redistribution of claims, and access to, resources, rights, and social opportunities” (p. 3). For Bradshaw (2012), Social Policy is the study of the limits of collective provision to meet common social needs, the study of human needs and how they can be met, and it’s a field of study focused on a set of institutions and a range of activities concerned with distribution and exchange. Donnison (1973), cited by Bradshaw (2012) quotes, sustains that we are concerned with an ill-defined but recognizable territory: the development of collective action for advancing social welfare. Our job is to identify and clarify problems within this territory, to throw light upon them – drawing light from any discipline that appears to be relevant – and to contribute when we can to the solution of these problems (p. 36).
Popple and Leighninger (2015) argue that writers such as T.H. Marshall and Richard Titmuss sustain that social policy is the same as more government involvement in social seeking social justice, equality, and equity. Specifically, Marshall (1972) defines social policies according to their welfare objectives, such as health, welfare, and security. He affirms that social policies contrast with economic policies, which don’t seek to satisfy individual needs and are not concerned about individual welfare. According to Marshall (1972), even though social policy uses political power to supersede, supplement or modify operations of the economic system to achieve results that the economic system would not achieve on its own, in doing so, it is guided by values other than those determined by open market forces (p.15).
We can say that there is some consensus amongst authorities and researchers of social policy. Even though we can observe some differences, it is fairly to say that they agree upon that social policy is concerned with collective interventions to promote individual welfare (Walker, 1982). Marin (2021) establishes that there are some main characteristics of a social policy which are: developed by the public powers, it must be agreed upon and supported by the main social actors involved, it is intended for citizens, and it is developed to alleviate a social problem or benefit a discriminated group, it is one of the most important tools of the welfare state, and it is financed publicly, through taxes. With this general meaning of social policy, we can address the following questions; How are social policies designed? What aspects are considered in the moment of designing social policy? How can they be analyzed to determine their legitimation? How, when, and where are they implemented? Can we evaluate their effectiveness and efficacy?
First, social policies address social problems but are determined by public beliefs and public values. For example, if you are a judge deciding the punishment of someone who has a first-time conviction of possessing an illegal substance, you believe that people are capable of change. You have the value of rehabilitation, and you would send that person to drug treatment. On the other hand, if you believe that people are incapable of change and one of your values is punishment, you would give the person a prison sentence (Kremer, 2020). Module 1: Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation
In 1600 the English Government required local governments to assume responsibility for the needy, stating that economic support must come from family first, then the local community. The policies were addressed to deserving poor: lame, blind, orphaned children. There were apprenticeships provided to children, housing to the disabled, and the “underserving poor” (vagrants, drunkards, slothful) were sent to workhouses to earn basic needs (Kremer, 2020). During the Colonial Period (1600-1800), America was viewed as a land of abundant resources. On the other hand, poverty was viewed as a personal misfortune and not as a public responsibility. Assistance to the poor was provided by private means and through “almshouses” to those we know, and service was fragmented. Mainly, social welfare was guided by Elizabethan Poor Laws.
Even in the Pre-Civil (1800-1860) and shift from agrarian to industrial economies, poverty continued to be blamed on individual behavior and care from non-familial sources initiated. After the Civil War, social responsibility emerged, and governments started to provide funds for men permanently disabled during war, considering that poverty had structural roots other than individual faults. Residential institutions were established to care for people with mental illness, orphans, and disabilities.
In the Progressive Era, social policies toward welfare began. National government involvement grew due to increased poverty, and the shift to social responsibilities for social problems occurred but relied on voluntary religious organizations. Charity Organization Societies began, and the prevalent values and beliefs were that poverty was rooted in individuals’ deficiencies and that poverty could be eradicated by helping people recognize their flaws.
From 1875-1925, the Settlement Movement began (Europe and United States), and social workers should live (settled) amongst the poor. Individual services were mainly adult education and literacy, while community services addressed tuberculosis prevention, well-baby clinics, child labor laws, etc. (Kremer, 2020). From 1925-1940, many events took place in the United States that forced an overturn of poverty conceptions, social policy, and social welfare. Along with the depression and World War I, social policies emerged. Social Insurance for workers and dependents at retirement or death was established with the Social Security Act of 1935. This was available for anyone paying into the system and guaranteed for the rest of life. Public assistance began available for the poor but was intended to be temporary. Module 1: Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation
Post War World II marked a period of economic recovery, social conservatism, reduced social responsibility importance, and limited social service reform. Despite this trend Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (GI Bill) and adding disability to Social Security Act were approved. The emergence of various social policies marked this era. In the decade 1960, there was a recognition of disparities between groups prompted by reports of inequalities, the War on Poverty (1964) began, the Office of Economic Opportunity (Youth Corp, Head Start) was created, and Food Stamp Program began, also with programs like Medicare/Medicaid. Also, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was approved.
According to Kremer (2020), the following 30 years were renewed conservatism and retrenchment. Government skepticism grew resulting from increased welfare and Vietnam War, and the Federal government returned control of social services to state and local agencies. There was a slow and minimal federal response to new social problems. Even though the Earned Income Tax Credit was passed, there was an increased focus on private interests. There was a shift toward personal responsibility, AFDC was replaced with TANF -Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, time limits on aid/work requirements were established, and there was a significant reduction in several TANF recipients. Even with emerging conservatism, the rights of specific groups were increased, for example, the American Disability Act – of 1990, the Civil Rights Restoration Act – of 1993, and the Family Medical Leave Act – of 1993.
After the New Century (2000), government intervention increased after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Recession. There was an expansion of the federal government’s role in social policies. The government’s role focused on health care; Medicare prescription benefits were established, State Children’s Health Insurance Program was created, and the Affordable Care Act was approved, marking the first successful effort to move toward national health insurance. Another social policy approved was the Cares Act – COVID-19, due to a worldwide pandemic.
Foundations and Issues to be Considered for the Analysis of Social Policies
The process of designing social policies is linked to its legitimation, implementation, and evaluation which all stages are investigated in the process of analysis of social policies. Birkland (2020) summarizes the policy process as a cycle with no beginning or end.
Most scholars find the notion of this policy cycle attractive because this is how policy stages should look like and provides for people to say and decisions that people should make. Furthermore, Birkland (2020) sustains that the stages model of the policy process can be considered a form of systems thinking. He also states that the simplest model of the policy process is an input-output model. This model provides elements of descriptive (it describes what is) and prescriptive (what should be) social policy (Birkland, 2020).
For Birkland (2020), systems thinking is a way of thinking about natural or social phenomena as a system in which various inputs into a system are handled, processed, and interact with each other to create a set of discernible outputs. On the other hand, input-output is a policy process model that assumes a set of policy demands or inputs, which are then processed by the political system into laws, programs, and the goods and services government provides (p. 36).
The policy process and how people and organizations make decisions are considered in policy analysis. As previously mentioned, social policy analysis includes inputs and outputs but also outcomes, which are not often evaluated. “Many agencies measure outputs; they measure what they do, not their effect on particular problems” (Birkland, 2020, p. 284). Outputs measures things an agency or organization produces, such as the number of sessions of therapies offered. On the other hand, analyzing the outcomes of the outputs is the action of assessing the effects of those outputs. These outcomes can be positives or negatives.
According to Cochran, C. E., et al. (2009), policy analysis is principally concerned with describing and investigating how and why particular policies are proposed, adopted, and implemented. […] A policy option must be evaluated in the light of what policy analysis reveals about its chances of being adopted, the probable effectiveness of the option, and the difficulties of implementation (p. 7). There are various analytic tools used by policy analysts, derived from fields such as operations research, statistics, and economics, to understand the likely outcomes and benefits of particular policy ideas (Birkland, 2020). In the process of decision making and implementing a specific social policy and analyzing them, “analysts draw on several tools to not only analyze policies, but also participate in debates over what policies to adopt, and what tools to use to achieve policy goals” (Birkland, 2020, pp. 293-294). This means that policy analysts not simply participate in the policy process but rely on their skills to be important participants in the policy process. This will offer a better outcome in social policy implementation and evaluation. Unfortunately, in our political system, appointed officials and elected officials make public policy decisions. Once a set of goals or desired outcomes has been made, someone or some institution in the policy process must decide on social policies where citizens don’t have a say unless all the cycle in the policy process is addressed and policies are reevaluated to incorporate the feedback of citizens.
Cochran et al. (2009) sustain that policy evaluation involves collecting and analyzing information about the efficiency and effectiveness of policies to determine whether the policy goals have been achieved and to improve policy performance. They pointed out that evaluating policy has both normative and empirical dimensions. The normative dimension refers to society’s values, beliefs, and attitudes, groups and individuals in society, and the policy evaluators themselves. The empirical dimension must precede judgment to obtain the most accurate statistics available. Policy evaluation is used to:
- Determine which goals are being met and to what degree (including unintended consequences)
- Identify reasons for success and failure
- Allocate (or reallocate) resources
- Make changes to improve policies or decide to end policies that are not working (Cochran et al., 2009, p. 13). Module 1: Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation
Popple and Leighninger (2015) suggest the following outline for policy analysis:
- Delineation and Overview of the Policy under Analysis
- What is the specific policy or general policy area to be analyzed?
- What is the nature of the problem being targeted by the policy?
- How is the problem defined?
- For whom is it a problem?
- What is the context of the policy being analyzed (i.e., how does this specific policy fit with other policies seeking to manage a social problem)?
- Choice analysis (i.e., what is the design of programs created by a policy, and what are the alternatives to this design?)
- What are the bases of social allocation?
- What are the types of social provisions?
- What are the strategies for the delivery of benefits?
- What are the methods of financing these provisions?
- Historical Analysis
- What policies and programs were previously developed to deal with the problem? In other words, how has this problem been dealt with in the past?
- How has the specific policy/ program under analysis developed over time?
- What people, or groups of people, initiated and/or promoted the policy?
- What people, or groups of people, opposed the policy?
- What does history tell us about effective/ineffective approaches to addressing the problem?
- To what extent does the current policy/program incorporate history lessons?
III. Social Analysis
- Problem description
- How complete is our knowledge of the problem?
- Are our efforts to deal with the problem in accord with research findings?
- What population is affected by the problem?
- Defining characteristics
- What theory or theories of human behavior are explicit or more likely implicit in the policy?
- What major social values are related to the problem, and what value conflicts exist?
- What are the goals of the policy under analysis?
- Manifest (stated) goals
- Latent (unstated) goals
- Degree of consensus regarding goals
- What are implicit or explicit hypotheses in the problem statement and goals?
- Economic Analysis
- What are the policy’s effects and/or potential effects on the functioning of the economy as a whole-output, income, inflation, unemployment, and so forth? (macroeconomic analysis)
- What are the effects and/ or potential effects of the policy on the behavior of individuals, firms, and markets-motivation to work, cost of rent, supply of commodities, etc.? (microeconomic analysis)
- Opportunity cost; cost/benefit analysis
- Political Analysis
- Who are the major stakeholders regarding this particular policy/program?
- What is the power base of the policy/program’s supporters?
- What is the power base of the policy/program’s opponents?
- How well are the policy/program’s intended beneficiaries represented in the ongoing development and implementation of the policy/ program?
- How has the policy/program been legitimized? Is this basis for legitimation still current?
- To what extent is the policy/program an example of rational decision-making, incremental change, or change brought about by conflict?
- What are the political aspects of implementing the policy/ program?
- Policy/ Program Evaluation
- What are the outcomes of the policy /program concerning the stated goals?
- What are the unintended consequences of the policy/ program?
- Is the policy/program cost-effective? Module 1: Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation
VII. Current Proposals for Policy Reform (pp. 31-33).
Social Basis and Economic and Political Considerations in the Theories for the Analysis of Social Policies / Importance for Social Work Practice Policy Analysis
Social Basis and Economic and Political Considerations in the Theories for the Analysis of Social Policies
Roth (2008) states that public policy analysis is based on diverse epistemological and theoretical perspectives for building analysis models. After a brief presentation of the main epistemological and theoretical frameworks used and the diverse analysis models, we conclude that it is necessary to introduce the analysis of the rhetoric –the art of convincing or persuading– inscribed in public policies. This is to keep in mind the impact of the communication strategies used to justify and legitimize public policies. (p. 68).
Evaluation is based on four paradigms that differ in their ontology, epistemology, and methodology: positivism (and neopositivism), post-positivism, critical theory, and constructivism. Therefore, depending on the view of the researcher’s world, the researcher will advocate different theories. Therefore, depending on the view of the researcher’s world, the researcher will advocate different theories.
The Four Paradigms are:
1.1 The positivist and neopositivist paradigm: affirms that the perceived and measured facts are real and objective and can be understood through empirical, experimental research. For the positivist, the reality is directly attainable and is determined by laws of causality that can be discovered. In the area of public policy, these perspectives are also called incremental or utilitarian. On the one hand, the incrementalist position focuses its analysis on the formulation and implementation of public policies in the negotiation processes between the various groups organized organizations that defend their particular interests both during the legislative process and during the implementation process. On the other hand, the utilitarian position is widely expressed through cost-benefit analyzes as a method of evaluating policy alternatives (Roth 2008, p. 72).
1.2 The post-positivist paradigm or critical rationalism: For this paradigm, as for positivism, reality exists, and the events that occur can be explained. For post-positivism, a multiplicity of causes and effects seriously hinders the explanatory task. Module 1: Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation
1.3 The critical theory paradigm: believes that reality exists but is impossible to access. This paradigm seeks to legitimize greater citizen participation to strengthen the democratization of public policy processes. In this way, the critical theory focuses on uncovering everyday life’s power relations and manipulations. Therefore, for the defenders of the critical theory paradigm, investigative activity is always guided by values; consequently, objectivity and the search for it are illusory.
1.4 The constructivist paradigm: this paradigm considers that reality is a Social construction and that, therefore, objective reality is not accessible to researchers, even though it does not exist, since each individual can see reality differently. Reality is relative.
Importance for Social Work Practice Policy Analysis
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) contains in its Code of ethics that; Social workers should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions to meet basic human needs and promote social justice. It also states that Social workers should act to expand choice and opportunity for all people, with special regard for vulnerable, disadvantaged, oppressed, and exploited people and groups, and promote conditions that encourage respect for cultural and social diversity within the United States and globally.
Social workers should promote policies and practices that demonstrate respect for difference, support the expansion of cultural knowledge and resources, advocate for programs and institutions that demonstrate cultural competence, and promote policies that safeguard the rights of and confirm equity and social justice for all people. This is a calling for Social Workers to act upon social policy and not just to sit on the sidelines and implement them without doing a thorough analysis of the social policy that is put in place or implemented, taking into consideration human rights, social justice, and diversity of the vulnerable.
Birkland, Thomas A. (2020). An introduction to the policy process: Theories, concepts, and models of policy making. (5th ed.). New York: Routledge.
Bradshaw, J. (2012, Nov. 15). What is social policy? Lecture by professor jonathan bradshaw for prospective students [Video file]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zUv4bHdHMc&t=3s
Cochran, C. E., Mayer, L. C., Carr, T. R., & Cayer, N. J. (2009). American public policy: An introduction. Cengage Learning.
Gil, D. G. (1992). Unravelling social policy: Theory, analysis, and political action towards social equality. Schenkman Books.
Haque, M. Samsul (2001). “The diminishing publicness of public service under the current mode of governance”.”Public Administration Review 61(1), pp.65-82.
Kremer, (2021. Jan 21). Basic concepts in social welfare. [Video file]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__M8tjaJ2Z4
Marín García, A. (2021). Política social. Economipedia.com. https://economipedia.com/definiciones/politica-social.html
Marshall, T. H. (1975). Social policy. Hutchinson
NASW, (2021). Code of ethics of the national association of social workers. https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
Popple, P. & Leighninger, L. (2025). Policy-based profession, the: An introduction to social welfare policy analysis for social workers. Pearson
Roth Deubel, A. N. (2008). Perspectivas teóricas para el análisis de las políticas públicas: ¿De la razón científica al arte retórico? Universidad de Antioquia. Estudios Políticos, (33), 67-91.
Walker, A. (1981). Social policy, social administration, and the social construction of welfare. Sociology (Oxford), 15(2), https://www.jstor.org/stable/42852294 . Module 1: Stages of the Historical Development Process of Social Policy, its Design and Analysis, Legitimation, Implementation, and Evaluation